Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Most Surprising Result of the TIME Poll

I'm somewhat skeptical of national polling on most educational issues, since the public doesn't truly understand much of what they're being asked about (heck, half the wonks don't really understand NCLB).  So I read a few posts about the TIME poll, bookmarked it, and forgot about it.  Finally got around to reading it today . . . there are mixture of results that anybody can use to support their pet reform or ideology, but I think they're all at least fairly close to what we'd expect.  Only one question really surprised me:

4. What do you think would improve student achievement the most?
More involved parents: 52%
More effective teachers: 24%
Student rewards: 6%
A longer school day: 6%
More time on test prep: 6%
No answer/don't know: 6%

Talk about flying in the face of recent rhetoric . . . if we took the last 100 editorials and op-eds on education policy from the nation's major newspapers, how many would call for better teachers and how many would call for more involved parents?  I can only remember one recent one that sort of called for the latter (Samuelson's op-ed about motviation), so I might have to guess 99 to 1.


Anonymous said...

Yes more involved parents are needed but isn't this a twofold issue? Parents can and do send their children to school prepared to learn but if they have ineffective teachers, a weak curriculum, weak administrators, bad culture/environment, low expectations...then most of the blame for what is wrong in education still falls at the feet of the teachers and educators in general...what am I missing?

Attorney DC said...

I've read several books about academic achievement (particularly how it relates to race, economic status, and culture) in American schools. The general findings seem to be that certain cultural groups (Jewish, Asian) tend to perform well in school even if they attend the same schools as other ethnic groups that perform poorly, and often even if their families are lower income. For instance, low-income schools near San Francisco traditionally have high-performing Asian students alongside lower performing black and Hispanic students.

In addition, studies routinely show that the student's personal characteristics (family, SES, etc.) far outweigh school characteristics in determining the scholastic performance of the student. All this seems to show that, while teachers are important, students from supportive families (especially those from a culture where both their parents and their peers highly value academic excellence) will perform well even in "poor" schools, while students from families or cultures that place less value on academic achievement (or don't have the resources or education to effectively support the student) will likely perform less well, even if they attend an overall "good" school and even with caring, experienced teachers.

Attorney DC said...

Note: As this relates to your post (and the Time survey), it appears that the survey respondents are on the mark on this issue, and the newspaper columnists and education policy reporters are wrong.

Anonymous said...

Well, teacher quality is something that public policy can presumably do something about, whereas parent quality is another matter. So if you care about public policy, you have to talk about things that public policy can affect.

Corey Bunje Bower said...

I only said that I was surprised by the result, nothing else . . .